Work injuries are an important issue that effect employees in the restaurant industry. There are many ways that healthy employees can be injured on the job. Most work injuries are preventable, so it is important for restaurant owners and their managers to educate employees on how to prevent injuries. Here are some of the common hazards faced by employees:
Employees can slip on wet surfaces resulting in serious falls. Many times ice will melt on a tile surface, liquids will leak from a refrigerator, or a heavy rain will cause muddy water to be tracked in by customers. Employees who fall may break bones, develop back problems, or suffer serious head injuries. People who suffer head injuries could lose consciousness, develop bleeding in the brain, or have residual concussion symptoms.
Lacerations are very common in the restaurant industry due to the use of knives and other cutting utensils. Even the most experienced chef will have a finger laceration that occurs from cutting meat or vegetables. Blood is a serious contamination risk and places all employees and patrons at risk. When a laceration occurs, appropriate first-aid is needed immediately. Employees need to have the Tetanus vaccinations updated to prevent infections. They should be assessed by a medical professional to determine if stitches are needed.
Back pain is the number 1 cause of missed workdays due to occupational injuries in America. Cans of cooking items, meat, and vegetables are often ordered in bulk. Simply moving them from one area to another in the kitchen can result in serious back pain. Employees should always have help when lifting heavy objects and know the proper lifting techniques to avoid back injuries. Some back injuries may not be obvious on the first day, but will worsen over the second or third day. Employees may have back spasms, neck pain, or simply be unable to get out of bed. Over-the-counter or prescription medications may be required to manage the pain. Sometimes x-rays or physical therapy are also needed.
Chemical exposures are also a daily occupational hazard. Bleach can splash into the eyes, fumes can develop from chemical sprays causing wheezing, or rashes can develop on hands that are not protected by gloves. Every employee should be familiar with chemicals used in the preparation and cleanup of the kitchen area. There should be a material safety data sheet binder which lists all of the chemicals used in that restaurant and a phone number to the 24 hour national Poison Control Center which is 1-800-222-1222.
Steps to Take During a Work Injury
If an employee is injured at work, the right thing to do is file an incident report and discuss the problem with a supervisor. From there, a clinic visit with a doctor is usually recommended to rule out any serious problems and discuss treatment options. If the injury happened at work, workers compensation insurance will cover the cost of the doctor’s visit, prescription medications, any diagnostic testing, and follow-up visits.
Worker’s compensation insurance is always recommended for businesses in the restaurant industry. Although it may seem like an expense, it truly is an investment. It will save thousands of dollars for the restaurant owner to have an appropriate policy that includes injuries at work.
Dr. Muhammad Emran, Medical Director of West Oaks Urgent Care